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Black hails 'breathtaking' Villa faithful

Eric Black described Aston Villa's fans as "breathtaking" during the relegated team's final home appearance in the Premier League.

The West Midlands side were consigned to the second tier last month when they lost 1-0 at Manchester United, suffering their first demotion since 1986-87.

Supporters have made no secret of their displeasure at the team's sorry state of affairs in 2015-16, some protesting against owner Randy Lerner during an organised march to Villa Park on Saturday.

But caretaker manager Black could not fault their backing during a 0-0 draw with struggling Newcastle United.  

"I think the response from the supporters was breathtaking, for me," he said.

"We never knew what was going to happen but I think they saw the players had continued from last week and worked tirelessly, " he added, referring to a somewhat improved showing in a 3-2 defeat at Watford last time out.
"We took a little step toward them [the supporters]. It is very difficult when you are setting up a team which has lost 72 goals this season.

"To take teams on is difficult at times and we had one or two injuries as well.

"A good result is obviously important but for me the most important part is getting the supporters back on side before the end of this season and for the start of next season. I think you witnessed that today.

"The atmosphere in there was pretty close to the 12th man when it gets rocking. We need them and I think the players deserve a little credit for taking that step toward them again."

The result against Newcastle ended a sequence of 11 consecutive defeats, Villa narrowly avoiding setting a new club record for successive league losses. 

"It is a relief more than anything else," Black added.

"We knew we were relegated for some time but the main aim and the most important factor is to make sure some of these supporters come back with slightly more optimism than they would have.

"It's a small step, very small, I'm not saying it is any more than that. But small steps are needed to build something."

Villa's final top-flight match will come away to Arsenal next Sunday before they begin preparing for life in the Championship.